The Door

Sometimes i wanna just lay this body down
float away and leave it behind
It’s heavy, this flesh
this warm and soft skin-wreath that hangs on my door
It beckons
This toothy smile, these sparkling eyes
like a lit doorbell in the night
My hands spread open, palms up
A welcome mat

I’m hiding behind the door
peeking through the curtains
The fire behind me illuminates my form
Stop knocking, i’m not here
The hearth is hot and the blue light bids me come
I step in and dance, rippling pink and golden, white, orange
Then grey and wispy, like air with fur,
I rise up and float away
My body lies below me, still warm and waiting

Suddenly, a torrent, and i am acrid
wetness,
Tears in hot ash, sss-ing
Someone’s at the door and they won’t stop knocking
Pushing the doorbell that fairly tinkles my name
while i sweep myself into a pile and inch towards the door
Taking shape, heavier with each step
Light and shadow filling the carved wood of the door
My door, my face, my flesh… Hullo?

Sometimes i wanna just lay this body down

Suffer the Little Children

Alternate title: Jesus, Do You Smell That?

Content warning: Some references to childhood sexual abuse.

I’m settling in to this process a bit more every day. I don’t know how long it will take for me to forge a connection between my brain and my body, but i’m committed to and invested in it, even if i’m never quite done. I’m connecting parts slowly, a bit at a time, and i’m doing well resisting the urge to tackle it all, hard and head-on. When the Peanut Gallery pipes up with some judgey shit about how i should be further along than i am, i have plenty of examples of how terribly awry things can go when i push too hard. However, during my therapy sesh yesterday i realised there is an area where i could be doing a tad more, and i’m balking.

I try every day, all day, to stay present in my body and feel what’s happening to me physically; my aim is to dissociate as little as possible. I hold on to the face through the regular day-to-day sensations, like brushing my teeth, which can be triggery AF, and i’m hanging on through some awful body memory stuff, like phantom burning in my genital area. While i’m going through these intense body sensations, my Bits N’ Pieces are having various reactions to what’s going on, just like i am. I’m learning to care for the body memory stuff with warm drinks, blankets, binding, writing, and even talking about it with my hubs, but i’m hanging back when it comes to directly engaging my system and asking them what kind of care/comfort they’d like while dealing with this stuff.

Mutiplicity can be difficult to explain, and this is one of those areas that, no matter how i put it, it still seems inadequate; the words don’t communicate my reality sufficiently. Yes, i hear voices in my head. I know they’re all me, and yet they’re a little bit not me. Maybe think of it like we tend to think of things as natural or not natural: maple syrup gets the natural label, but Aunt Jemima doesn’t. They’re both made of ingredients that come from our world (some additives are man-made, sure, but it’s not like we folded space and travelled to another universe for the elements needed to make them), yet one doesn’t seem as raw or earthy – it’s not as much a part of the innate order of things. Unnatural? Not quite natural?

So it is with my system. I know the people that live in my brain, that chatter at me all day long and even into my dreamlife, that saved me when i was little and now help shoulder the minefield that is being a human living in a developed nation after severe trauma, by carrying my burdens, secreting my pain, and sometimes taking control of my body when i’m overwhelmed… Are all iterations of me – various versions of who i needed to be or thought i had to be in order to survive.
Yet they are not me.
There were walls between us for many years, borders that none of us would cross. They would not because they exist to care for/protect me, and i couldn’t because i hadn’t the knowledge or the space safe enough to do so. To step into the light and see my system – my big brain machine humming along, gears inside gears, turning alongside gears inside gears. A terrifically complicated and intricate psychic arrangement of snippets and gobs of personality. Actors that only exist between the green room and the stage. When i finally saw my face as a lit theatre and gained access to their dressing rooms, well, you know that not every actor whose work you like is a person you’d want to hang out with after the show, right?

Some of my people are not a good time. I might even say most of them aren’t, a lot of the time. I love them in a way that is only for them – not like i love my husband, my children, my friends. Not like food, or music, or art, or animals, or sunshine, or a cool glass of water, or my husband’s kiss. Not even like the characters in my favourite books. They’re more than these things, and less, too. Yet they’re closer to me than absolutely anyone else – no one, nothing else could get so close. They’re my saviours who occasionally get me into some serious scrapes. They’re my best friends and my champions. And they’re also my children who’re always getting into something and the only reason i don’t strangle them is they’re underdeveloped toddlers who can’t help it.

They remember awful things, sometimes as clearly as if they happened yesterday, sometimes as if they are happening now, in this moment, all the time. And i know i’m currently writing about feeling the physical sensations that go along with certain memories that’ve been locked away in certain parts of my body, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also carry some physical pain. They feel the aching jaw, the bruises, the cuts, the headache like my skull is going to turn to dust, the swelling, the bleeding, the burning – all of it. It’s my hope that this work i’m doing will help them be free from pain. Perhaps even, that they can return to me as i return myself to homeostasis. They’ve told me their stories, now it’s my body’s turn. I see this as a housecleaning. I’m shining a light on all the dark places, removing all traces of black mould. But this house is currently serving as a temporary MASH unit, filled with sick and wounded soldiers. I have medicines and tonics and pills for them, and i have cleaners and disinfectants, tools and talent for cleaning a filthy home…
But the body has triggered my system, and i haven’t asked them if they want anything from me to help them bear it all.

Back when i was first learning to listen and relate to the other people who live with me in my brain, it was a gross and disgusting ordeal. Once i acknowledged that some of my dreams were actually memories, it was like trying to live a normal life in a locked room filled with decomposing bodies. I felt like i was coated in filth – it slicked my skin and filled up my nostrils and sat in the bottom of my belly like an angry, acid python, constantly twisting and spilling over itself. I stank of evil, life stank of rot. I was surrounded by horror, sex and death roiling and foaming together like a cannibal’s cauldron. It was the closest to giving up that i’ve ever come, i almost lost myself in the viscous fluid of memory, losing form and definition and nearly dissolving into hopelessness and endless nothing.

As i write this i’ve suddenly seen that i’m parenting my Bits like i parented my real life children. From a fucking distance. Afraid to touch, to engage, to connect. I didn’t know how with my sons, but i do now. I learned because i saw how much harm it had done to me not to have it from my parents. I’ve been learning and practising since then because i believe it’s not too late to give it to them unless they tell me so. And i would keep trying even if they told me it was too late and would never be enough, because i believe it’s my responsibility as a parent, and because i experience that doing so helps and heals me, too.

Yes, parenting my children with connection, engaging with them emotionally and physically – that’s what my brain-babies need/want, as well. Of course they do. I know that, it’s just that the feelings they carry, the stories the snapshots the motherfucking scary movie franchise…
Bah. The last time i got up close and personal with it all it was years before i felt clean again. It was years of barely being in the face because i couldn’t take the slime and the stench.
But comparing them to my boys helps.
Writing helps.
Therapy helps.
Hubby helps.
Truth helps.

They’re broken off bits of me, and they need me to wash them, bind up their wounds, and soothe them, just as i’ve done for myself, the primary me. If they were real live children, covered in blood and shit and filth, smelling like sex and rot, i wouldn’t hesitate for a second to gather them to me and minister to their needs.
These children are all me; why is it so hard to give myself what i would give to any other human in my position?
I was taught that i only existed to be poured out for the consumption of others, but i know now that that was a wicked, selfish lie told me by evil people.
Knowing where i come from and who i am is good, but it’s not enough. I have wounds that need washing and stitches and bandaging, breaks that need mending, and aches that need warmth.

This piece may not make much sense, i’m not sure. This is so close to my core that i don’t think i’m able to edit/proofread this with a critical eye. If you’ve made it this far, i thank you. Writing this made me want to throw up most of the way, but here and now, at this sentence, i feel recommitted and more fiercely dedicated than ever. If someone hurt a child the way i was hurt, if someone hurt my children the way i was hurt, i would ruin the world to make things better for them.

Yes, it’s a contradictory statement. It’s hyperbolic. It paints a picture and conveys the intensity of my conviction.

So, i guess i’m heading into the trenches.
This could get…

<insertwhateverwordcametoyourmindasitprobablyapplies>

Take Care and Try a Little Tenderness,
I will, too.

~H~

Huh.

I missed my last counselling appointment… Kinda. My body was there, but i was not in the face.* At the time, i was in full-on chaos mode, and my therapist had to deal with some Littles and some Angries. Yesterday, she filled me in on how it went. I came in small, got very big and pissy, and tried to leave.
I’m a leaver, a take-off-er, a skedaddler of the highest order. I get stressed, anxious, scared, and i vacate the face and then the premises. Fortunately, my therapist deals with people like me for a living, and has done so for more than 20yrs. Apparently, she used mom-voice on me and it worked.
Mom voice.
Huh (not the question huh, the onomatopoeia huh). Who’da thunk it?

She ordered me to sit back down, told me i wasn’t going anywhere, and then informed me she was putting her weighted blanket on me.
Dudes – i do NOT do weighted blankets. I do NOT like any heaviness on me at all. In bed, i’ll usually even throw off the duvet and just use the sheet, my nightwear, and my husband’s body heat for warmth, because the weight on me triggers anxiety.**
Apparently, i tolerated it, and although i pouted and wore a sour face, i admitted that it made me feel a bit better.
Huh. Well, don’t that beat all?

While i don’t remember arriving there or leaving, when she described the part of the session with the blanket a bit of it came back to me. Sometimes, i’m completely gone when someone else is in the face, and i can’t find/feel an internal connection to the goings on being related to me, that i was involved in. Sometimes though, i’m not fully switched, and it’s like i’m in the corner of my brain, half asleep. When i’ve withdrawn but not left completely, a report of events can often trigger some recollection, or at least a tangible emotional connection. It’s like when you burp hours after a meal and are reminded of what you ate, maybe? Heh.

After the update, she asks me how i’m doing. I shrug and say, “Meh. But it’s a good meh.”
And it is good.

I think (hopehopehope) i’ve emerged from this period of pure, unadulterated panic that i’ve been operating in. It might be more accurate to say i’m hoping to avoid another one, because i don’t feel panicky, although my sense is that it’s not as far away as i’d like. These last few months have been exceptionally difficult as far as my mental health and maintaining a decent level of day-to-day function are concerned.

Way back i knew what i was undertaking was going to be hard, but not this hard.
I knew it was going to hurt, but not this much.
And i knew it would be scary, but didn’t anticipate abject terror.
I suppose i couldn’t have known until i was in it, and i was as prepared as i could have been. I’ve put in one heckuva lotta work.
It ain’t easy to bring a dead body back to life.

Yes okay, i’m the first one to admit i’m a bit on the dramatic side (my name is Histrionica after all), but when you spend most of your first decade of life literally trying not to die – i think you get some accommodation. I gave myself permission regardless, and i try to keep it on a relatively short leash, except in times like these. Therapy. Digging deep. Performing surgery on myself hurts like a motherfucker, and i get to emote, damn it.

Reestablishing the connections between my brain and my body is the hardest inner work i’ve done to date, and i’m never not exhausted.

Let’s backtrack a sec.

I was raised religious, but more than that, i was created by my parents to be obedient, above all other things. So, although i’d had it suggested to me a number of times, i rejected the MPD diagnosis (never went back to any p-doc type that suggested it). Dogma said it didn’t exist, and my mother both counted on me being multiple, and relied on it being hidden from me that i was one. It wasn’t until my mother’d been dead for some time that i considered it. When the social worker from my church who was counselling me told me i clearly was, and the psychologist who also attended our church agreed with her diagnosis, i finally accepted (or at least began the process) that i “had multiple personalities”. (Ooh, that stuff in quotes makes me cringe hard. I’ve developed my own slang surrounding multiplicity over the years, or i might never have been able to talk about it; my reaction to commonly used words and phrases regarding it is still so visceral.)

The lady who treated me was kind and sweet and worked with me for a few years, but it was still heavily centred on our shared faith. I think i was switched most of the time. I was starting to believe i was a multiple, but i still wasn’t really aware of it happening. Along the way i had weight loss surgery, became an apostate, and stopped seeing her.
I also went batshit crazy.

The bipolar disorder became obvious first – being thin for the first time in my adult life brought up a tonne (harhar) of issues that being in a food coma and surrounded by a wall of fat had kept at bay. Before the year following my surgery was up, i was tits-deep in mania. Mania is characterised as “a state of heightened overall activation with enhanced affective expression together with lability of affect” (Source: Wikipedia), and labile is an adjective meaning unstable, fluctuating wildly. Sounds about totally, yep, uh-huh.

It is my uneducated and purely experiential opinion that the mania blew the doors off in my brain that were keeping me from knowing my system, and kept them somewhat controlled in their behaviour. What followed was a free-for-all that kept me scrambling for the face, for years. I barely slept and mostly ran on booze and drugs and manic juice.

Back to present, now.

The thing that has thrown me for a loop is just how much i dissociate. I had no idea until i took on this work of being as present in my body as i can be, which becomes harder the further i am from the face, that i’m at a measurable level of dissociation most of the time. This all leaves me invariably exhausted, with no special juices to keep me going.

So i tell my therapist about how tired i am, and how much my body hurts, but how the fear no longer has me in a chokehold, and i’m strangely fine with it all. I say i think i might have an idea why that is, and i share my hypothesis.
That’s for next post, though.
Have the best week you’re able to, and i’ll do the same.

Peace and Love,
~H~

*For the uninitiated, “in the face” is a phrase i use to describe who’s currently in control of my system, i.e. the part who’s seeing/speaking and has physical agency.
**Upon proofreading, that’s a bit of a misnomer. I also sleep on an old disco waterbed where i keep the heat cranked – it helps my fibromyalgia pain. So i’m nice and warm and don’t need the duvet, even if i was fine with the weight of it.

Baby, I’m On Fire

I set myself on fire last week. Yes, literally.

This last 2wks i’ve been either slidey* or outright switched. I’ve required near constant supervision, lest i leave, or get up to other sorts of destructive behaviours. Unfortunately, after 5 or 6yrs of no interventions, the police and ambulance were called to determine if i was a danger to myself or others. Although it was determined i was definitely not a threat to others, i did a small stint in the hospital, where i received good care. The doctor offered (or perhaps urged, heh) that i stay longer for more assistance, but i was allowed to leave when it was clear i have family/friend/therapist support at home. He prescribed some medications to help ease my anxiety, and they’ve helped.

I saw my therapist and she always calms me. She helps me see my path more clearly and refocus, but unfortunately, she’s a real, live human, with other clients, a family and a life of her own, and thusly i cannot carry her with me wherever i go.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that this stage of my therapy involves learning to feel my feelings without dissociating. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m not looking for “integration” (i’m not even sure what that word means with regards to multiples), but i am looking for a higher level of day-to-day functionality, and a greater degree of healing.

To put it a little more clearly, when i was abused as a child, my brain severed the connections between my thoughts, my emotions, and my physical sensations, in order to survive trauma so great that i simply had no ability to understand, let alone process it. Without connection, without the means to apprehend what had happened/was happening to me, some of those thoughts and emotions, even some moments frozen in time in my mind, developed their own personalities, from flat and static, to a couple who’re more fully rounded than some people i’ve known. (That was snarky i know, but i’m leaving it, because it’s true. Pfft.)

Continuing on then, i leave the safety and support of my counsellor’s office, and step out into a world that is currently full of triggers. I’ve lived my life either not noticing, or quickly dissociating from these things. I had to, or i simply wouldn’t’ve been able to function at all. I would’ve been stuck in trauma-response, unable to work, to have relationships, to care for myself or others, in other words, to participate in what it means to be alive. I myself would’ve been frozen in time.
The gazelle that freezes when she sees the tiger.

The ability to dissociate not only saved my life growing up, it allowed me to be somewhat effective as an adult. However, as time passed i could see it was only minimally helpful, and in certain cases quite harmful. I wanted more from life, especially once i had children.

I learned to live my life as a multiple, the insight into how my brain works making my life easier and better than it had ever been before… Until a little over a year ago. I was living a reasonably happy and successful life, when i suddenly crashed. It wasn’t like my Thelma&Louise crashes of the past, thankfully. (I play both parts, just fyi.) But i wanted to party, which is something i don’t much care for now, and i felt that old childhood imperative that my abusers had programmed into me to GO HOME; a place that doesn’t exist anymore, and would be beyond dangerous for me if it did.

I had the sense to get my ass back into therapy. When i asked her what i was doing wrong, she said, “Not a thing. You are taking such good care of your brain that your body is now wanting that same care and attention.”
My body is tired of being numbed out and alone. It wants to rejoin my brain. It wants me to listen to it as diligently and lovingly as i did my brain.
And i want to. I know it’s the good and right thing to do for me, but it is a haaaard thing.
It is perhaps, the hardest thing i’ve done in my life, to date.

I stay in my body and feel my emotions and physical sensations, while knowing what i know — that i was repeatedly traumatised from birth, until my mother died when i was in my early 20s.

This was a difficult concept for me to grasp, so i can imagine that it may be for others, as well. I’ll provide an example to help explain:
One of my abusers would always jingle the change in his pocket. As an adult, i would often hear the sounds made by coins jingling together, and when i’d hear it i was bothered, unsettled somehow. But the memory of the man who did that was held by a part of me that i wasn’t personally connected to, and so the pain of what he did to me didn’t consciously affect me, it just left me with a vague sense of unease. The reason it upset me was kept from me by both the little girl bit that lives in my brain who remembered, and the part of my body that he had hurt, and while i’ve now connected to the girl who’s held that memory, i hadn’t yet connected to the pain that he’d caused in my body.

So now, today, when i hear change jingling, i remember the man and what he did, but i also feel the pain in my body: the terror making my heart beat faster, the violation of my genitals, the itch in my legs to run away. I don’t just remember, i feel it, and although this may not make sense, in a way it is for the first time.

This has been my life for the last few months. I’m triggered frequently, repeatedly, daily, and i sit with it and i remember and i feel it and i hang on for dear fucking life, until the connection has been made. My Bits N’ Pieces are being reconnected to my body and so am i.
I’ve lived my life playing dead so the bear won’t eat me, but the bear’s long gone and it’s time for me to rise up and join the living.

It’s terrifying, painful work, and i’m physically and psychically exhausted.

So last week, i get it in my head that i must purge the clutter in my house. I’m convinced that i’m drowning my entire family in hoard (i don’t come remotely close to such a diagnosis), and i’ve got to get it out of the house or everyone’s going to get sick and die. While my family’s been great at helping me with this (we’ve been slowly decluttering over the last few months), i had some angry, protective parts come out and start throwing out everything they could get their hands on, including some heavy items that i have no business lifting, given my current fibro flare and the osteopenia in my lumbar region.
Once their rage was spent, as is my system’s way, a little part came out to be a “good girl”, to try to assuage any hurt feelings the angry ones may have caused. She came out to help.

I was raised part urban, part rural, and i know how to use a burning barrel. It was my job as a kid to use it, and save us a trip or 3 to the dump.
But i didn’t know how to do that when i was 5.
She wanted to help, and there was some paper/cardboard trash that needed burning.
So she poured gasoline all over everything in the burning barrel and lit it with a little cigarette lighter.

I was slammed back into the face by her terror and pain and i heard the WOOF! as the fumes lit. I felt the fire kiss my face from my hairline to my top lip. The fire lingered a little longer on my right hand and danced about halfway to my elbow. It took a couple of seconds, no more, but it seemed longer. Every emotion was intensified by me having not been there before it happened.
Which has happened to me countless times, and it’s never not been scary.
To find myself in a completely different situation from the one i last remember, with no consciousness of the passage of time, where in fact it seems like 1 second one thing is happening, and the very next second i’m somewhere else entirely doing a completely unrelated thing… Well, i would imagine that would scare just about anyone.

I singed off a fair bit of my hairline, and most of my eyebrows and eyelashes. (Which i’ve spent time and money regrowing due to trichotillomania. /majoreyeroll) The tip of my nose got it pretty good, so i’ve referred to myself as Rudolph for the last week, heh. There’s a bit of scabbing on my upper lip, but not noticeable, i just feel it. It was my hand that got the worst of it, with significant blistering and lizardy feeling skin across my hand about a third of the way to my elbow, plus 2 second degree burns on my fingers, and a third degree on my thumb.
I’m sure we all realise this could have been much, much worse.

In this blog i share my day-to-days: adventures, misshaps, and ho-hums all, to help myself sort my shit out, to help foster understanding of those of us living with mental illness (like me), and those of us considered neuroatypical (also me). I also write to reach out to those like me, to let them know they aren’t alone, and to offer hope that they might too, find their way to a place of functionality and happiness that works for them.

My point with this post is quite specific, and of utmost importance for me to understand.

Sometimes, no matter how much work i’ve done or how far i’ve come, shit’s gonna happen. I’m not a danger to others – for instance, if i’d been around children, angries and littles wouldn’t have come out that day, only protectors.
But sometimes, sometimes my brain is just gonna do what my brain’s gonna do.
I am who i am, and i’m finally starting to like me. Not just accept, not just love, but i’m growing attached to me. I’m rather fond of myself. I’d hang out with someone exactly like me.
Crazy, broken, occasionally completely dysfunctional me.**
Yes, i’m working hard AF to get to what i consider to be a higher level of function – i’m seeking more happiness and more usefulness and just, i don’t know, more presence and availability to the world around me and the beings sharing space with me in it.

BUT

I’m absolutely fine and right and good already.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*What i call a dissociative state where i’m some level of conscious of what’s happening to and around me, but i’m unable to affect my own actions and have little to no agency – it’s sort of like watching myself on tv.
**I know some of these descriptors don’t work for everyone, but they do for me.

Well, Ain’t That A Kick in the Head?

Mid-October 2016 is the last time i wrote about my physical pain at any length. It hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s been steadily, yet thankfully slowly, building since back then. This new therapy has intensified my fibromyalgia pain, but it’s more than that. Sure, pain can be based in psychic trauma, and the stresses of day-to-day living can amp it up, but there’s more going on.

I’m just not dissociating as much.

I’ve done all this work and it’s brought me here. I know i refer to it in nearly every piece i write, but i’m not sorry for the repetition. It’s important, i think, to hammer it home for anyone reading my blog. It’s one of the most important things i want to get across. Not that this kind of thing takes a lot of work; this dealing with childhood abuse, and the way the brain and body copes with the devastation.

You already know that.

What i’m driving at is that it’s all work that we’re doing – this surviving it.
It’s all good work.

I hurt, and i had a dysfunctional and unsatisfying life and i wondered why.
I thought about it and i asked questions and took suggestions and tried things. And then i thought some more and i talked to people – professionals, friends, mentors, religious and lay folks, gurus, anybody… everybody. And then i thought some more. I pondered and i marinated, and i tried some more stuff and read books and went to lectures and joined groups and took courses, and i drew a smidge of wisdom from this and a pocketful of encouragement there and a wee cup of self-awareness from that, and i kept on going.
I picked up tiny jewels of truth here and there and i locked them up in a vault inside me, guarding them carefully, watching over them like treasure, like innocent babies who only had me to keep them safe.

All this movement, all this questing, all this work, all this surviving i did over the years, and yet i despaired a thousand times that i was getting nowhere, changing nothing, and learning little, fearing that i would be forever lost and broken and rudderless.

I kept looking back and seeing only the passage of time and my footprints.
Plus lots and lots of mess.
There were times i stopped. Sometimes frozen with fear, sometimes collapsed with exhaustion, sometimes consumed with rage, and many, many times weighed down to immobility by the cruel and crushing weight of my past.

But i learned to weather those tonic storms, to honour them, and as i’ve worked and persevered, i’ve drawn closer to the light.

There’s enough light now that i can look back and see, with emergent clarity, that nothing i did or did not do was in vain. All the mess was garbage that needed to be tossed: structures that needed to be torn down, toxic relationships that needed to be ended, hoarded memories that needed purging. The swamps filled with poison that i swam around in – it was poison that had washed out of ME, and i left it behind when i finally crawled out, cleansed. It was all good work.

Because i sought, because i wanted, because i tried, it all mattered.
Here, in this moment, i have both peace and confidence. I am, at last, at a place where i am no longer at the whim of unconscious and reflexive coping skills and protective actions that ceased being helpful long ago.
I am leaving behind my life in the land of the dead, and moving into the light, to live with the living. Yes, there are bits and pieces of me that are still afraid, but i’m not anymore.
I’m no longer stuck in a feedback loop, replaying the horrors of my past.

I’m in this current bit of business now because i want to be. I’ve done enough to manage and be okay, both for myself and my loved ones. But i want MORE. I want the next level, whatever it is that is more than just enough – and i suspect that is usefulness.

And to that end i am telling you, that i think, that as long as i keep seeking and wanting and trying, that nothing i have done or not done will be in vain.

**********

I was talking about physical pain. Right. Heh.

I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early ’98, after a car accident in August of the prior year. I tried many different treatments, all to little or no avail. I suffered tremendously – and then suddenly i didn’t. I mean, i still had pain, for sure, but it wasn’t like before. The intensity lessened and i was no longer consumed by it, every day, all day, where it even chased me into my dreams and i would moan and cry myself awake.

At first i thought it was a supplement i’d been given to try, but when that stuff was scientifically debunked, i stopped taking it and my symptoms did not intensify. I still had the occasional flareup, but my pain levels didn’t spike nearly as high as they had. I thought maybe i’d just become acclimated.
I watched other people with the diagnosis suffer far more, and i told myself i was fortunate to not’ve been afflicted as terribly as they.

This was shortly after my massive weight loss, the mania that followed, and the more conscious and chaotic experience of my multiplicity that quickly took hold of me whilst in that state.

It’s probably obvious where i’m going with this, but i’ll spell it out anyway.

As i’ve become sounder of mind and clearer of purpose, so has my pain become bigger and harder to ignore. I’ve tempered the voices in my head and adjusted their various volumes, only to have the confusion they brought replaced by so-called “fibro fog”, which happens when pain saps my energy and robs me of deep sleep.

I remember my doctor sending me to our city’s FMS specialist, for an official diagnosis. I don’t know if it’s still done this way, but one of the things he checked was my response to certain trigger points in my body. All but 2 of them were very tender.
The pain was terrific, sometimes all i knew. There were days i couldn’t move without tears. I gained a prodigious amount of weight. I slept my days away, yet never felt rested.

Then i had another baby and i needed to do better. So i had weight loss surgery, and well, i’ve already mentioned here what followed: thin begat bipolar mania begat dissociative chaos begat a parade of people who live in my brain coming out to experience life in the face and wreak not a small amount of havoc.
But my fibro had become easily manageable. I figured the weight loss had done it.

I spent years learning how my brain worked and how to coexist with my Bits N’ Pieces and live a decently functional life.
And i got there and thought i was done.
But i wasn’t satisfied after a while, and more than that, i became unsettled, my carefully constructed wa was rattled. I then did what i do — i thought about it and went looking for answers and for help finding them.
And what i found was that there was more work to do if i wanted, and i knew right away that i did.

This work involves being in my body and feeling my feelings -both emotions and physical sensations- while being present in my brain and listening to what it’s saying. My thoughts and my emotions and my sensations have been disconnected from each other since i was a baby enduring trauma.
I’m bringing myself back together, and the physical pain is a sign that it’s working.

Well, ain’t that a kick in the head?

It’s all coming back to me now. The pain, the insidiousness of it, the gaping maw of it. I see how it swallowed me whole back then, and i looked up hopelessly from the bottom of its belly as it slowly digested me.
This time ’round it’s different.
The pain is still incredible. I’ve woken to a painful throat from moaning in my sleep. Mornings are awful, the pain and the stiffness at times barely tolerable. I often wake as tired as i was when i fell asleep, or more. It’s advanced in severity over the years, quietly and unbeknownst to me. I can feel it seeping into the bones of my hands, like i’ve been in subzero temperatures with no gloves. I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia in my lumbar region, and i can feel the fibro ache radiating like an electric sun. I’m going in to see the doctor after a bunch of tests that were ordered because i’m now telling her about things i used to ignore, like chronic UTIs, like plummeting blood sugar, like maybe tennis elbow?

And friends, writing is a misery. I have little energy, and my brain is cloudy. I can’t find the words to formulate a cohesive sentence, and i get frustrated and tired out so quickly. Grrr. Argh.
But i’m learning too, and it’s not as hard as it once was. Because i’m in my body and feeling the pain, i can figure out where and how much i can push through it. I’m finding ways to still have the quality of life i desire, according to my current set of limitations. I’m being reasonable, and careful, and conscious. One of the most helpful things i’ve learned over the years is that small tweaks over time is what works best for me. Don’t push too hard or too fast, jumping in with both feet doesn’t tend to work well.

All the work i’ve done prior is coming into play. The small tweaks, the slow pace, the mindfulness, sharing my thoughts with a safe person, breathing, gentle self-talk, hygiene, and today, finishing a piece for my blog in spite of wicked pain. A piece that took many more days than i’d wish, but a thing that wouldn’t have been conceivable, let alone doable, all those years ago when fibromyalgia first made a meal out of me.

One more thing – i thought the urge to dissociate from this pain would be a constant battle, but amazingly, it’s not. Once again, i believe it’s all the work i’ve done that’s making this possible. I’ve been careful and diligent with the others who live with me in my brain. I’ve gotten to know them and addressed their concerns and met their needs as much as i’m able, thus winning their trust and earning their compliance and assistance. We’re as close to one mind as we’ve ever been, and so my desire has become theirs. My work, their work.

I’m not looking to suffer, i don’t think there’s anything redemptive or rewarding to be found in it, but it’s what some people do, every day. They learn to cope, to live, with suffering and pain, emotional and physical. They don’t leave their bodies, they don’t perform psychic surgery on themselves, they don’t play dead – they deal with it.

I want to be more like regular people, like normal people. Let me immediately follow that statement by saying a couple of things:

1) I don’t want to hear about What’s normal? Who’s normal?
While i grok the sentiment behind it, i know what i mean when i say that – to be just a little bit more like other people. You are of course, free to not want those things.
And,

2) I’m both mentally ill and neuroatypical, depending on your definitions, and while i’d love to ditch the Bipolar Disorder, that’s not how it works and i’m okay with that. Being a multiple is considered by some to be more neuroatypical than a disorder, and although i’m moving in a direction that some might call integration, i personally don’t see how my brain works in that regard as a “disorder”.
NOTE: I am not a professional, these are just the thoughts and feels of someone living with it, not someone who’s gone to school to understand and treat it.

I want to live as present a life as i can, including feeling pain, both physical and not.


Yeah, i’m still a bit crazy.
I like me this way.

IMAGE: Without Hope (1945), Frida Kahlo

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. IV

Warning: Contains some indirect references to integration, and refers to child rape and trafficking. This is a positive piece, but make sure you have good support in place.

**********

So, as i was saying… I’m not a bitch.

But i’ve been told i was one, and called one, ever since i can remember. My mother often exclaimed, “Oh, you little bitch!” when i failed to live up to her expectations, which were unrealistic, unreasonable, and very often unattainable, for my entire childhood. To give you an idea of how high they were, i could cook an entire roast beef dinner when i was 4yrs old.

One time when i was 6, i came home from school and realised i’d forgotten to thaw the liver i was supposed to be preparing for supper, and so i put it in the oven. I didn’t know the plastic container it was in would melt as well, so when the intense chemical smell hit me, i yanked open the oven door and tried to pull out the container, which was stuck to the rack, but managed to drip onto my wrist – a scar that’s visible today.
Her response when she got home from work was, “You stupid bitch!” plus the obligatory beating.

When i would ask for money to participate in a school activity, i was often called a selfish bitch. I only thought of myself, she’s needed new work clothes for years, all i care about is going to the stupid zoo/museum/farm/play, do i think money grows on trees?

And on the rare day when i completely lost my mind and dared to question or correct her, she’d slap or backhand me and call me some form of smartass/smart aleck/smart-mouth, attached to the ubiquitous “bitch”.

I learned that asking for anything, complaining about anything, and questioning anything were all bad and dangerous, but more than that –  they meant i was a bitch. Once i’d learned that lesson anyone could control my behaviour by indicating to me in some way that i was being a bitch. I let toxic people become close friends and allowed toxic family members to maintain contact with me. And i let them all have control over my life decisions and manipulate me into behaving the way they wanted.

Some told me i was the black sheep.
Some reminded me i was only half related to them.
Some pointed out i was only attached by marriage.
Some informed me i was a drama queen.
Some called me a liar.
Some said i was faking.
Some simply acted as if i didn’t exist.
Most treated me like i was the problem.

If you’ve read enough of my blog, you may well wonder how this fits with a self-professed “good girl”.
It is simply one of the gifts of being a multiple. I have many facets to my personality. Some, i’m now discovering, are intrinsically me. Some are aspects i took on in order to please and find relative safety. I have some parts of me that i created to be for me – parts that were on my side 100% of the time. These parts would occasionally come out and get me something that i wanted to have or be someone that i wished i could be, but could not.

They could tell people off. In fact, they could lay a verbal smackdown that left some folks practically punch drunk. They were capable of the silent treatment, a certain stubbornness that wouldn’t allow me to grovel or beg family for anything.  And they were able to keep the wrong kind of intimate relationships out of my life, almost entirely.
When the first person i seriously wanted to be with physically was a girl, they got her for me, in spite of all my religious upbringing, and my mother’s vicious homophobia.

It took them a while to gain power. I’m not sure when they were made/created/born, and if they were around when i was being regularly sexually abused, i’m not aware of it. However, once my mother stopped trafficking me, they grew in influence inside my brain.
They mouthed off to my mother, and stole food from her for us – and took the beating that always followed.
They told opportunistic boys No, when those creeps figured the fat girl would be only too happy to give them sex because i was getting a little attention.
When it was men, they got me the fuck outta there. And there were men.
Of course there were.

They built a wall of protection around me. Once the raping stopped, they began laying bricks. Occasionally someone would get through a hole in my defenses, and they’d brick it up right quick. They drew lines in the sand of me that no one could cross. No one. Kept my need for love and acceptance and understanding and compassion in check. Managed my levels. Made sure no one could sneak in and eat the fruit of the 1 little tree that had survived the violent plunder of my garden.

Pull out this brick, she needs some sun.
Shit, someone’s coming, put it back!
Shhh…

Then i met someone i wanted more than i’d ever wanted anyone — more than the girl all those years ago. I had relationships by pure accident. I wanted companionship, i occasionally wanted sex, but mostly i craved normalcy, and being in a relationship was what society and religion seemed to be telling me i needed to have in order to get that.
But no one ever got passed that brick wall. If the relationship fizzled or fell flat, i was fine in a day or 2, tops.
Then i found myself dating an excellent human, and i took down the bricks, crossed my own line to go over to him, and i pulled him close to me and haven’t let go for going on 24yrs. I found my person, my soft place to fall.
And i fell.

I’d been trying, before i met him. I tried my best sometimes, even. Like when a family member attempted rape, like when my mother died, like when my first son was born. But between not finding the right kind of help with the right person, and running from any hint of a DID diagnosis, i was just spinning my wheels. I couldn’t find any traction. I’d get exhausted and quit for a while, only trying again when crisis would hit.

When i fell in love with him and started building a life with him is when my work began in earnest, and although mental illness and the way my brain works has tripped me up hard here and there, i’ve never not picked myself up and gotten back at it as soon as i was able.
And as building a life with him created safe space around us, i set to rebuilding myself. As per my own specs.

I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work, i’ve suffered setbacks aplenty, and i’ve despaired at length. I’ve lost and/or eliminated a great many people. I’ve stripped myself down to the absolute barest of necessities: air, water, food, shelter, love. HIM. And at one point i was prepared to continue without him, if need be.*
Many times i’ve looked behind me and only seen wreckage, but ever so slowly, as i turned back, tightened my focus on the path directly in front of me and set my shoulder to the wheel, i found my perspective broadened. Each time i turned back i saw less of what i’ve lost and more how far i’ve come – what i’ve gained.

It was tough for me last year, when i thought i’d done all the therapy, and was so dang functional and fine, only to have my body pipe up and ask, then beg, then INSIST that there was more work to do, and it was deeper and more painful than that which came before. I panicked when i saw what i was looking at: to bring together my thoughts and my emotions, that have existed separate from each other since i was a baby.
To feel what i feel while knowing what i know. At the same time.

The last few months have been filled with terror. I lost sleep, i slid into fibro agony, my system worked up into a chaotic froth, bringing with it a constant headache, loosening my hard-won grip over who could be in the face and when – losing control, losing time, that old, internal imperative built into me to GO HOME. A place that no longer exists, and only held suffering and misery when it did. Between the hard switches and the drinking i was doing to cope, it was beginning to look like a stay in The Bin was in my very near future.

But the time and the work i’ve invested in myself and my quality of life have begun to pay off. Panic and terror are not fun to feel, but they don’t actually last for long. These are states of feeling that are intense, and they tend to burn brightly, but fizzle or at least fade relatively quickly. I know from my past that i can ride these feelings through, and they haven’t killed me. And they’ve had a chance to more times than i can count.
My therapist says that no one ever died from feeling their feelings, but they have from not feeling them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but i can see it blazing bright in my own life. Feeling this stuff won’t kill me, i have that repeated experience to have at least a small amount of trust in. And if doing this chunk of work can bring me an even higher level of function and more opportunities for happiness, helpfulness, and success than i was enjoying back when everything went for shit last year (and my therapist –in whom i also have some not-insignificant trust in– assures me it will), then i’m not just in, honey i’m ALL in.

Now, finally, this is the part where i tie it all together.

Becoming a multiple is what i did to survive my childhood. My system has saved me countless times from losing my life or my mind. Dissociating from what was happening around me was the best i could do, but once the trauma had ended, it became more and more of an impediment to experiencing life on life’s terms, and inhibited me from building the life and the relationships i wanted. It all came to a head and burst when i fell in love and got married. I knew, both from intuition and from every single experience i had with him, that i could trust him, and he would support me as i fell completely apart and put myself back together again. And he did. He has. He will.

I’ve figured out how my brain works, and i’ve gotten to know everyone that lives in there, formed relationships with them that work, and helped them get along with each other. I’ve studied the people around me, the people who left me, the people i left and the ones i let go, and my relationships with them. I’m at peace with it all, and though my current circle is small, it’s tight and strong and healthy and there’s room for more if i so choose. My requirements for relationship are appropriate and well thought out, and i know what i bring to the table.

Clearing a spot for me to do this next-level therapy has not been easy. I had a home safety issue that i’d been avoiding, because i wasn’t getting the help that i’d repeatedly asked for to deal with the problem. I had to get that squared away. Then i had to simplify and streamline my day-to-day routine, because my energy was limited, and my current therapy needed to be my priority. And i also had to ask people in my circle for understanding, for patience, for help. I had to take a hard look at what others were asking of me, prioritise, and say No to people. Dearest loved ones, even. No, i can’t do that, and No, i won’t do that anymore, like ever. I put up some walls and drew some lines in the sand, and when they weren’t respected, i raised my voice and pumped my fists until i was heard. I require this, and that, and ohbtw, that must stop immediately.

I built this safe space for me to live and be and work. And if you’re not on board with that, either you go, or i will. Whatever. I’ll build another place to be safe. I’ve seen a light coming from somewhere just over this next peak, something bright and beautiful.
I think it’s me. Or maybe it’s a mirror.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with mirrors my entire life. I’ve always hated looking into them. I have to be careful not to look into my own eyes. I can glance quickly, but if it’s more than a second or 2, i dissociate. I pull back – retreat inside myself. I’m suddenly further away from the mirror. Quite a number of my Bits N’ Pieces love to look in the mirror, though. They’re curious. What do *I* look like? When i first began getting to know them and stopped fighting all the switching, some of them had a field day. Makeup, clothes, the mirror, and hundreds of selfies. As i’ve brokered a mostly peaceful coexistence with them, i’ve lost a lot of the fear and loathing i had for the mirror, but it can still be a trigger when i’m low or tired or already sliding around a bit.

Yes… I think it’s a mirror. I think i might meet the person i’m creating inside that mirror, and i’ll bet when i turn around i’ll see who i once was – all of them. I think the work i’m doing right now is a pretty huge fucking deal.

Something has happened over the last month and some, and i think it’s empowerment.

I’m moving into all the spaces inside my brain and my body – i’m filling myself up with ME. Sharing space with my system and moving into the cold and barren places, letting in the light. I am the light.

I’m not afraid.
I’m not afraid to piss anyone off.
I’m not afraid that someone i love won’t like who i’m becoming.
I’m not afraid that people won’t “get it”.
I’m not afraid to lose someone i love to this process.
I’m not afraid to be alone.

I’m not a bitch for focusing on myself.
I’m not a bitch for needing or even just wanting things, and i’m not being a bitch by asking for them, or going out and getting them myself.
I’m not a bitch for creating a safe space, and defending it against all who threaten it.
I’m not a bitch for demanding to be heard and respected in my own home.
I’m not a bitch for saying NO.
I’m not a bitch for calling out abusive behaviour.
I’m not a bitch for refusing to take anyone’s shit.
I’m not a bitch for not taking on other people’s burdens.
I’m not a bitch because i’m tall, and strong, and smart, and pretty, and funny, and wise… I’m not a bitch because i take up more room than someone wants me to, and i’m not a bitch if i intimidate the absolute fuck out of anyone.

This is my road.
Move or i’ll move you.

~H~
*Hey, every relationship goes through rough patches, if they stay together long enough. It shone a light on both our flaws and made us painfully aware of our personal baggage that we’d brought with us. But that’s a story for another time.

 

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. II

Growing up with very few safe spaces contributed greatly to my hypervigilance, my distrust of others, my obsessive need to be liked and accepted, and my extreme emotional reaction to anything that looked remotely like rejection.

Once i left home i had a few roommate situations, which i eventually learned were not for me. I preferred being alone, and when my first son was less than 6mos old, i moved in to my first apartment on my own. I didn’t live with anyone else until i met the man i married, years later. Having my own place, my own space, helped change me in many positive ways. I began to relax a little, internally. I wasn’t so tense physically, i wasn’t so busy mentally, and i wasn’t as close to meltdown emotionally.

I had a place to decompress after a day of peopling. I had somewhere to escape when i felt overwhelmed. I could figure out how to be a grownup and a mother privately, without other pairs of eyes always on me, and to my mind, constantly judging me. I had a safe space where no one hurt me, no one blamed me, no one wiped their unwanted emotions off onto me or made me carry their past baggage. It allowed me to be more who i genuinely am, albeit still unconsciously.

I rarely had people over. It was me and my kid, and i loved it.

Associations with friends and family would be done in their homes, or parks, playgrounds, restaurants, malls, wherever – as long as it wasn’t my place. The only people besides my son that i regularly wanted in my space were my siblings.
I took the occasional lover, but they weren’t permitted to come around until my kid was asleep, and they had to leave before breakfast.

This home base allowed me to grow as a person. I made closer friendships, and began allowing others more access to where i lived. I still couldn’t figure out how to be in an intimate sexual relationship, although i tried. I ended up hurting a few young men, and eventually found myself pregnant again.
The recovery home that had helped me years before, offered me a nice, cheap apartment in a great neighbourhood that also housed other women who’d been through the program, but could still benefit from the financial and emotional support they offered. They also hooked me up with free counselling, and access to other programs to help me continue to try to deal with my childhood trauma, and to figure out how to be a decent single mom to 2 wee boys.

In this 4-plex, i made the most intimate friendships i’d ever had. We visited each other daily, and everybody was always welcome in everyone else’s apartment. It was a busy little commune, and it was the happiest i’d ever been in my life. It taught me that there were good, kind, SAFE people in the world who wouldn’t hurt me – who just wanted to be my friend and love me. We did practically everything together, and we were first on the scene when any one of us were struggling or in need.
Without them and their friendship, i’m not sure how much longer it would have taken me to be able to trust anyone enough to have a serious romantic relationship, if ever.

We all eventually moved out of our safe little “halfway house” – they got a place together, and i got a place which was soon filled with the man i’m over 20yrs married to today. They both approved of him, and i trusted their judgment even more than mine then, because the guy before was a hard lesson in why one shouldn’t date bad boys.

They’re both gone now, and i wish i’d had this insight sooner and been able to share it with them. My gratitude is boundless, and my grief, ever-deep. As we drifted away from each other (the reasons were quite serious then, but now seem so unimportant), we all fell apart, tired and winnowed huskless. Trying so hard to figure out who we were, what we had to offer, and move past the constant pain, sorrow, and dysfunction that had resulted from our childhood traumas.
I ache so to be the only one still here.
I’m swollen with the need to speak with them, to say Thank you! and to touch them, to hold them close and feel the heat of their skin, to clutch their hands in mine and to cry and laugh and talk too loud with them.

None of us knew how to be a good friend. We were all closed in on ourselves, curled tightly around our wounded cores. Trying to find love, acceptance, understanding, belonging… Somewhere. Anywhere. We all knew how our families expected us to behave, and we knew how we should act when we were out and about, around other people. However, it took a great deal from each of us to do so, and we all needed long lengths of solitude to rest and recover from each encounter with the world outside our slapdash treehouses.

We’d hibernate in our dark, chilly caves, padding ourselves with the protection of food and eating, the escape offered by reading and movies. We were the only people who could fairly easily enter each others’ sanctuaries, with the least amount of effort to engage, the most genuine kind of engagement, and the lowest level of fallout after our encounters. We tried to talk to each other about things that mattered, we sifted through old boxes of memories together, and even peaked into the occasional old attic trunk, whose lock had been bashed off by our ham-handed counsellors*.

We tried to relate to one another. We tried hard to be friends to each other. And none of us were particularly good at it, but we’d laugh at ourselves and keep trying. The stories i could tell of our adventures. Late night rescues from addictive behaviours. Hospital visits. Life skills classes and religious retreats. Police. Lousy boyfriends. Falling in love. Christmases and birthdays and cooking and cleaning each other’s homes when we got too low to do it by ourselves.
In each other’s spaces, we learned there were people who could come in and not take away from us. Someone who would add to us, and not deplete our resources. They brought warmth to my chill and pulled back the curtains on my dim, grey spaces, letting light in. The sun of their smiles. The safety of their understanding and respect when they didn’t touch me. The depth of their love when they delicately asked if they could…

It was all unconscious, then. I was so dissociated. I lacked the diagnosis, the knowledge i needed to knit it all together, a key insight that would finally be a flashlight into the dark places inside me, the places where other people hid.
Little people, big people, young, old, broken bits and fully fleshed out persons.

Perhaps it was finally having real and true friends who’d been through things i’d been through and were trying to “get over” them as i was, that helped me put that last piece of the puzzle in the right place.
I know they gave me my first taste of what it was like to not be alone.

I wasn’t the only fucked up person.
I wasn’t the only person who didn’t act “normal”.
I wasn’t the only one to feel weird, different, odd, other, strange, outside.

And i can see now that we probably unconsciously supported each other in creating a safe space around ourselves, as individuals, a place where no one could approach unless we wanted them to come closer.
And i can see now how wounded and broken we all still were; we didn’t have the right tools yet, and hadn’t all the information we’d require. So we still let in the wrong people – ones who crossed the line and then broke the circle – who penetrated our barriers and broke down our defenses.
And i can see now, them being overcome. By the past, by people, and finally, by life.

It’s breaking me, but it’s girding me, too.
I was so closed off from how deep my feelings were for them, because it was scary, dangerous, to feel so much. I see now, both absolute shit reasons and self-preservation reasons for my pulling away.
I could wax poetic about why they aren’t here now, but i’ve learned too much to do something so selfish and grandiose.
I don’t know why they aren’t here anymore and i am, still.
I do know that i wish they were, with all my heart.
I also feel a deep regret that things went the way they did, but i know i did my best, and i don’t in any way blame myself for their absence.
I believe now that they were the best friends i’ve ever had, until i met my husband.

There wasn’t much light in our lives when we found each other. I’m so grateful that they grabbed on to me and pulled me close, and then let me run away, and come close again. Over and over. Accepting me for who i was, letting whatever i could give be enough, and never being angry over what i could not.

I know now that they taught me so much that i needed to know in order to be where i am right now, today. They were there, helping me lay my foundation for friendship. They helped me know how, when i knew enough and was ready, to build strong walls around me, and what kind of door to put in, and that a good security system was necessary and smart and right… They taught me, with their lives, that it’s okay to be careful, vigilant even, to whom i give entry and to whom i do not.
I have a safe space today, and they’re part of my blueprint.

Their friendship, their personal struggles, and their lives are forged into my armour and their memory stands at my battlements, as i fight for my safe space today. And i am fighting and will always fight, against any and all comers.

I’ll fight to protect this, my safe space, my motherfucking castle. Most don’t even get across my moat, but i’ve found over the years that sometimes, even those i’d once welcomed in must be put out. I’ve pulled up the drawbridge on many, and you bet i’ve tossed some over the wall and pushed them from the turrets.

I’m the queen of my castle.

*We’d met each other through a home for women in crisis, run by the religious. Understand that, while i’m most grateful for all those religious women did for me, and they did a LOT (fed me, clothed me, taught me how to cook and keep a house, and address my past), they did it according to their religious beliefs, which included bible-based therapy. Also know that i cannot and would not speak for my friends with regards to the guidance and advice we received from them. I’m referring to myself specifically and only when i say it was just mildly helpful, and in some cases, although i have no doubt they loved me and wanted so much to help me, was actually quite harmful.

I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. I

I’m not a bitch.
I’m changing though, and that can be hard for people who’ve known you a long time, i think. It can be difficult for my partner, my children, my close friends.
I developed a truckload of traits to survive my childhood and cope with the trauma and dysfunction it’s caused in my life.
Even after it had stopped, my brain and my body kept living as if trauma was still occurring, or was just around the next corner.
I discarded some parts of my personality for the same reason.

I’ve gotten to know my system fairly well, and yes, they’re all me, but some of these quirks and qualities are no longer necessary. Well, not currently required.

I don’t see this as integration.
This is a first class vacation for some stressed little Bits.
This is the Rolex/beach house retirement for some exhausted parental types.
This war is long over, and it’s time to clean the weaponry and put it in its pristine arsenal, where i’m the only person who has access.
No one’s leaving and nothing is being tossed.

I know who i was and i know who i am. Now i’m on to the part where i figure out/decide who i want to be. I’m poring over it all, scrutinising everyone, and we’re building me together, fresh and new, from the toes up.
No one left behind. Everyone has a say. Everyone gets to feel.
And to that end, some things have been happening in my personal life that’ve triggered some voices with some things to say, some feelings and thoughts to express.

I hesitated with this piece. I didn’t sleep well last night due to some in-home upheaval, so when this stuff started pouring out on the page, i pulled back. Body vibrating. Hands shaking. Guts churning.
Do i let anger out? Resentment? Bitterness? Indignation? FURY?
What if i scare someone?
What if i come off as a bitch?

My therapist has spent these last months gently convincing me that these feelings need to be felt if i want to move on to some reward-rich, next level healing.
And why wouldn’t i want that?
My childhood didn’t kill me, and all i did to live with it, handle it, bury it, dig it back up, look at it, hear it, feel it, cope with it, heal it, hasn’t ended me either.
So bring it on. Lay it on me. Let’s do this.

**********

Today i’m not terrified.
Today i’m pissed off. I’ve been scared and felt vulnerable these last few months but made it through with no serious wreckage to clean up around me, and i can handle this anger just as well. I neither need nor want to pull my world down around me. I have no wish to torpedo any relationships – i’ve already eliminated all the toxic ones. I have one seriously problematic relationship right now, one that has perhaps triggered this anger (i’m not sure though, because this emotion was going to come up and require processing, regardless of my interactions with anyone in my current circle), but it isn’t toxic.
I think it’s probably normal AF to have ups and downs with loved ones – to have to work through difficulties and navigate some rough patches.

And while i am experiencing some dissociation, that’s just who i am, and i’m aware of it and i think i’m handling it fairly well. I’m not leaving the face and hiding from the conflict. I’m here, i’m in it, i’m the one feeling it and deciding what to do about what’s happening.

This is an emotional purge – a spring cleaning of some brain-clutter.
I’m fine, and the person i’m in conflict with is safe.
I don’t break people, and i don’t even break stuff anymore.

**********

I was taught to do as i was told and never complain.
I was taught that other people’s feelings were more important than mine.
I was taught that grownups, those having jobs with authority over fellow citizens, and males were my superiors.
I was taught that i was property.
I was taught that i was responsible for the “negative” feelings of others.

I learned that if those to whom i belonged or was beholden were in a good mood i was less likely to experience physical pain.
I learned that if these same people liked me i usually received better treatment overall.
I learned that if i could hide, or at least be quiet and blend in, i could sometimes avoid being targeted for abuse.
I learned that if i “absorbed” those emotions of them with power and authority over me, that the abuse might stop for a time, and i’d occasionally be rewarded.

I learned all these things long before i set foot in a school.
Fortunately?
Because school, which should have been a break from the Hell i lived at home, quickly became just another torture chamber.

I had a couple of excellent teachers, and i had a couple of absolute crap ones. Mostly though, they were mediocre and clueless. Maybe some were willfully ignorant, but i’m hesitant to apply the label because my mom could put on a good show when properly motivated. I was bright, i had a sunny disposition and an animated personality. So, even if i was clearly poor and my hygiene needed work and i never achieved the grades every teacher probably knew i was capable of, and my mother was hard to reach and the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life – that wasn’t necessarily a red flag…

Right?

My tone is sarcastic and i’m testy this morning, i admit it. I’ve given a great deal of thought to if and where my teachers bear responsibility for the treatment i endured in school, and i don’t find them culpable. I told my favourite teacher in high school that i was in a bad situation at home, and he acted as if i hadn’t said a word – shocking and revolting a complete abandonment of his fucking mandate sure, but i’d already moved out and was living with friends, so what was there left for him to do? Besides, we functioned in an atmosphere where one of my fellow students favourite teachers gave precedent to the popular kids, and flirted outrageously with all of them that were female. No one seemed to be disturbed by it at all. (He was one of the crappiest teachers i ever had. He thought he was funny and charming, but even in my dissociated state, i found him a repulsive creep.)

I can’t fault them for not protecting me from bullying, either. I tried never to let any student see that they hurt me, so what was there for the teachers to see/hear? I would insult myself first, or laugh along with them, or ignore, or sometimes (i know now) someone else in my system would handle things.
With their big, obnoxious mouth. Heh.
Which only ever caused more bullying, but my life was so filled with stress, i don’t blame anyone who lives here in my brain with me for needing to vent. Those occasional blurts may well have kept me from exploding. Or imploding.
Or whatever – i’m here and i’m alive and i’ll take it, with thanks to my beloved Peanut Gallery. Wah wah wah wah.

At least i never got the shit kicked out of me like i did if i beaked off at home. It was an exceedingly rare occurrence for me to get mouthy with my mother, but it did happen.
Maybe i never pushed any of the bullies too far, or maybe being Amazon-sized was off putting. (Or maybe bullies are actually pathetic cowards. Hm.) I guess i’m saying it’s possible that teachers didn’t see how awfully some of the other kids treated me.

It’s possible.

Everything i’d been taught/learned at home worked both for and against me at school.
I managed not to be the most picked on, or least popular kid in my grade (every time but one – and that, thankfully, only lasted half of 1 school year*), but i think i might have had it easier if i’d stood up for myself, even one time.
I didn’t stand up for myself, though. It didn’t occur to me.
In fact, i thought everything those horrid kids said to me was true, and it was appropriate to pick on me, because i was fat, and i was weird, and dirty and poor and whatever other label they ascribed to me.

I’m moving on from the teachers. On to the students. I’ll be brief, but i’m going to be brutal and blunt:

The ones who picked on me were jerks.
I have 1 friend today who confesses he was a bully in school, and he is one of the kindest and best people i know. Due to him and also the kind of human i am, i’m going to say that it’s possible that some of those kids grew up to not be jerks.
But i don’t think it’s likely.
(One of the meanest girls i’ve ever known immediately resorted to calling me names when i stood up to her as a grown woman.)
I hope they did change though, of course, because my heart breaks for the selfish, cruel, and clueless generations they might inflict on other hurting and lonely children. I know how hard it is to survive that, and i know not everyone does.

From school i could move on to shitty former friends and estranged family, but i’m not going to. One, i’ve processed former friendships well and moved on, and two, i don’t discuss family, because that might look like an invitation to them to come back and have an opinion about me and my life.
And they aren’t getting one.
Besides, they weren’t where these parts were focused. I’m listening, but more importantly, i’m feeling these thoughts and these memories. The fear, the hopelessness, and the terrible aloneness and otherness and wrongness that these crappy human beings visited upon me, Monday to Friday, for a solid 10 1/2 motherfucking years.

I’m dealing with a current relationship that reminds me of needing to be liked by a loved one in order to avoid being hurt, and whose treatment of me brings back all that pain from school.
I’m not cool.
I say dumb stuff.
I talk too much.
I’m weird.
I’m wrong.
I’m awkward.
I’m too big – i take up too much space.
Nothing i do is good enough.
I’m defective.
I’m not welcome. GO AWAY

*Fuck that school, fuck those lousy teachers, and above all, fuck those incredibly cruel and arrogant piece-of-shit students that are probably every bit as stupid and petty and shallow as they were when i attended their crappy school in their crappy town.
You’re the most popular kids in a school of less than 300?
Wow. What an accomplishment.
Generations of your family have grown up and raised their families there?
So amaze. You managed to live out status quo.
Very greatness. Such awards.

Thanks for adding to the burdens of an already battered and broken child. I’ll bet your kids would be proud of you. Heck, i’ll bet they’re just like you, you big, important fish in a tiny little pond.
Go you. Cue the marching band.

**********

I have more to say about my current situation, and what i’m learning about myself and who i want to be, and i want to share some super positive and exciting things that are coming about as a result of this absolute shit situation, but that’s enough for today.

The parts inside me that have held these feelings deserve for this piece to stand on its own. Writing it made me angry for them, which helped me be properly angry for myself.
Which helped them tap into their anger – their entirely, wholly justified anger at terrible treatment from terrible people.
I’m going to think about it today, and i’m going to listen to and feel what’s going on inside of my body (below the neck) as a result of thinking about this stuff.

Cleaning out my closets and junk drawers. Bringing all my muppet-monsters out to play.
My toys, my room, my house.

My weekend is here, and i’m going to do my best to rest and enjoy.
Thank you for being here and witnessing my process – you’re helping me create myself and my life.
Love and Peace,
~H~

The Garden and the Gate

WARNING: Contains specific references to childhood neglect, physical assault, sexual assault, and incest. This piece is a bit brutal and a bit odd. Be certain you’re in a good place and/or have good support before proceeding.

Note: I’m very vague regarding the current situation i’m dealing with, in order to protect myself and my loved ones. Stuff can and does happen between me and people i care about. One of the most effective ways for me to maintain a decent grip on my mental/emotional health is to talk and write about my life. This current therapy i’m in makes it even more important to be diligent in cleaning the clutter out of my head. I must listen to what my system has to say and be mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

While i am the one who’s written this piece, i’ve done so in a highly dissociated state. I wasn’t completely switched (i.e. i didn’t lose time), but there were a few particular Bits N’ Pieces that dictated the more vague, analogy-driven parts at the end. It’s like, if my brain was a starship, the inside of my forehead feels like the bridge right now. I’m Data at the helm, and Captain Picard, Commander Riker, and Counsellor Troi are discussing where to go, what course to plot, and at what warp speed to travel. (Okay, i’m not Data. I’m very emotional today. I’m Wesley, which is fine, because i love Wesley. So there.)

**********

I was brought into the world for a selfish purpose. My mother wanted someone to love her, which is not unreasonable in and of itself, but her definition of love was twisted and sick. She expected me, from infancy, to fill all her needs.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she often failed to meet my most basic needs, like food, clean diapers, protection from harm, soothing, medication/care when sick, vaccinations, play times, clothing that was clean, and proper according to the weather, and warm human contact.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she slapped me, punched me, kicked me, pulled my hair out, pushed me down flights of stairs, bashed my face into walls, doors, cupboards, stove tops, twisted my arm, pinched me, bit me, bent my fingers backwards, threw things at me, broke things on me, even if she choked and suffocated me, sometimes to unconsciousness.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she sent me out on the street to beg for money. Even if she sent me to the store to steal food. Even if she rented out my body for favours and gifts and cash.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she used me as a receptacle for every feeling she couldn’t/wouldn’t express in a healthy way: fear, shame, guilt, and angerangeranger RAAAAGE. Even if i was her vessel into which she poured an endless stream of poison/venom/bile/shit.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she spoke to me like i was a grownup since i remember comprehending speech. Even when she talked to me like I was her counsellor/confessor/best friend. Even when she had me touch her like I was her husband.

And i did, with my whole heart and mind and body. I loved her; she was my world. She was the best mom ever. And no one ever loved a child like my mom loved me. She’d had such a terrible childhood, i knew. She regaled me with stories* in lurid detail, stories that i might have identified with if she’d not already consciously, purposefully, carefully, and skillfully, helped me split apart and compartmentalise my brain.

How wonderful, how fortunate, how blessed i was to have such a special mother. So unique, so highly evolved, so triumphant over the evil that had surrounded her. So decent, so kind, so good.

She told me what to think, what to do, what to feel, whom to like and dislike.
I obeyed, i followed, i acquiesced, i surrendered, i died. I died over and over again, cutting off little bits of myself and shoving them into some black void inside me. Junk drawers and overstuffed closets and garbage bins inside my brain, and yes, i see now, inside my body too. Chunks of unacceptable personality tossed onto a compost heap and rotting, decomposing into some rich pile of shit that started talking to me when i was alone and in silence. Monsters morphing behind those closet doors, mostly muppet-like, but not all. Some terrifying and filled with rage and capable of destroying anything and anyone. Clawing at the door and rattling the knob, roaring to be set free, seeking apocalypse – annihilation.

I knew not to speak about how it was between us when the 2 of us were alone and behind closed doors, but not because it was bad or shameful or wrong. I knew how she treated me was special and we were highly evolved and incredibly intelligent and meant for a purpose. I knew the rest of the world was meaningless, and other people were dumb and stupid and incapable of understanding our ways.
I was indoctrinated, brainwashed, and Stockholmed. Fully. Completely. Utterly.

In the years since i first fell in love, accepted my multiplicity, got fat, got thin, got mania, got apostated, and lost or walked away from all friends and relatives, i’ve come to realise and own and carve out a reasonably functional and happy life from this washed up driftwood – to chip out a recognisable figure from this implacable slab of marble, this obdurate pile of refuse, this intransigent fabric.

It’s been the hardest work I’ve ever done; i’ve sweated and toiled and ached beyond measure to create and feed and grow this garden of mine, and it has yielded the most beautiful fruit.
Yes, i’m asserting that i’m amazing and colourful and worth a great deal. My fruit is too rare and precious to ever be put on sale, or for my location to be marked as a destination, though. One must be invited here, and my fruit is by offer only, although free to whom i would give it.

Another weird post, i know. It protects me and those i would shelter to be so arcane.
I’m HistrionicaButterfly, and i’m multifaceted AF, and sometimes it pleases and soothes me to be poetic and mysterious.
Today i’m being so because i’m sad and scared.
Someone i love is causing me a great deal of heartsickness and vexation.

I have a dragon who lives in my brain and he’s like an angel with a sword in that he oversees and protects all my lands and watches the gate.
I might have to banish someone i love, and my heart feels so laden and heavy and burdened. It feels as if it’s sinking into a yawning pit of emptiness that lies behind my heart. The ache reaches out of the muscle and into my bones; my sternum, my ribs, my scapulae.

This is not what i was born to be, or how i was raised to behave.
To tolerate is not even a consideration, and yet i’ve considered, and i’ve called it by that name. I’ve extended myself in grace that i was assured i never possessed.
I’m preparing to put my loved one out of this garden that i’d tended so long for my mother. This garden that was never hers and was always mine.
No matter how loved or how once welcome, you cannot dig up my flowers, my plants, or my trees. You cannot shit in my garden, and you can’t pick or partake of my fruit without permission.

I’m prepared to send my Dragon-Angel to swoop down upon this once-welcome visitor –to be swooped up by the talons and be deposited on the other side of my gate– to be guarded against as one might an interloper. I’m prepared to harden my heart until such time as they return with hat in hand, to humbly ask for reentrance.

No one, no matter how much I love them, will ever be allowed to abuse me again, and i will fight anyone for my safe space, no matter who they are or what they mean to me.

I have hope that all will be well, and in not too much time.
Nevertheless, i’m as prepared as i can be to say No and bar them from the safety and beauty of the space that i’ve built inside me and around me.

Y’all Take Care,
Love and Peace,
~H~

*Some that i’ve been able to verify, some that i’ve been able to debunk, some that i’ll never know for sure.

Image: Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole (1828)

Chocolate Potatoes

Warning: This is a story from my childhood. It’s been on my mind because, as i learn to listen to what my body wants to tell me about my past, i had a sudden realisation of why i’ve had occasional stabs of “phantom pain”, on the inside of my left thigh, right close to my genitals. I’m safe now. She’s long dead and her abuse ended with her. It’s just a story now, one that helps me understand and move on.

**********

“Here, go to Red Rooster and get me a bag of potatoes.”

In Red Deer, Alberta, in 1974, Red Roosters are a chain of convenience stores, like a 7-Eleven or a Mac’s Milk. She presses a couple of paper bills into my hand and sends me off.

We live in a low-cost housing complex just off Gaetz Avenue, the main road through the city that connects everyone to anywhere they might wish to go. Some of the units are red, and some are that awful 70s olive green. This is our Canadian version of an inner city ghetto though (read: run down and dirty, but not at all dangerous), so the colours are washed out and drab. Still, i’d prefer the red to our 4yr-old’s-runny-nose green.

It’s spring, but being Alberta it’s still very cold, and being Red Deer, sitting in a valley, there’s still plenty of snow. I stuff my feet into boots that were too small in November, (Good god, girl! I can’t afford to buy new things for you every month – will you just slow down already? Maybe if you didn’t eat like a pig you wouldn’t be so big!) and head out to the store, which isn’t even 5 minutes away by addlebrained 7yr old girls’ timing. Convenience stores, with their obscene markups for the privilege of such, are always close to clusters of the poor.

I pass some younger children playing in the yard of a red unit along the way. They wave excitedly and say Hi! and i respond in kind. Children my own age have already pushed me out of their circles – they know something’s not right with me. I’m poor, yes, but some of them are too. That’s not the problem. There’s a wrongness deep inside me and they can smell it, like a herd of horses will shun a sick one. It’s the stink of the urine in their case, in mine it’s probably the words that come out of my mouth.

“Your daughter is one of the smartest children i’ve ever taught, but she has no friends. She doesn’t know how to play; she just stands on the playground and watches, or tries to tell the other children what to do.”

The younger kids in my neighbourhood don’t mind. I’m bossy, but i’m nice, and i let them play in my yard and play with my toys, and sometimes i perform for them, which they love. They’ll sit on the grass in the summertime and i’ll do a puppet show from inside the house. Our front window has no screen, so opening it is like pulling back a glass curtain, leaving me a couple of feet of stage.
Mother has an old record player and a stack of 45s and 78s that i’ll throw on and do animated lip syncs for them. They’re delighted by my performances and it’s my only source of joy. Their favourite is when i do Little Red Riding Hood, by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

After a quick exchange of hullos, i hurry off to the store. Mother brooks no dawdlers.

I walk in and the door has a bell that dutifully announces my entrance, just like in the movies. Stamping the slush off my boots on the front mat, i survey the area around the till.

It’s where all the chocolate is kept.

Rows and rows of it and Oh! so many different kinds. I see them advertised in magazines, on billboards, and between Saturday morning cartoons on the telly. They’re all right here, though. Lined up like candy soldiers, perfectly faced. I can smell them. I can smell the chocolate, and my stomach reacts enthusiastically.
It’s been a long time since i last ate anything.

When i came home from school the day before i was starving. I’d had a bowl of puffed wheat for breakfast, but we were out of sugar and there was only powdered milk. By the time i got home at around 4pm i would have eaten nearly anything. The fridge was empty, as was usually the way it stood. A monolith of hope, containing cold emptiness and the odd packet of ketchup from some fast food meal of which i’d almost certainly not partaken.

That day though, while rummaging through the cupboards i’d found half a sleeve of saltines, in the bowels of a shelf full of old herbs and dusty spice jars. I arranged them carefully on a plate and squirted a bit of the ketchup packets on each. I was then struck by pure genius and added a dollop of mustard as well, and finished them with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. I tried to make my fancy appetizers last as long as i could, but i was so hungry and they were so delicious.
There’d been nothing since.

My gut managed to cry out and cramp up at the same time, as the smell of convenience foods –CHOCOLATE!– filled my nose. I walked up to the till and hungrily perused all the choices. Were there dozens? I stared so long the man behind the counter finally asked me, “You gonna buy somethin’?”

Sweet Marie. My favourite.
He rang through the purchase and i handed him my crumpled bills. He only took 1 and he gave me back change, so i picked out another one and bought it, too. Rolos. Definitely a close second.

With 1 dollar and a few cents left, i stood over by the comics and ate the Rolos, barely finishing one before i popped the next into my mouth. They were fresh. The chocolate was soft and the caramel filling was too, and it oozed onto my tongue, but still had a bit of chew. Perfect. The cashier eyed me and warned, “You can’t touch those comics now, you’re eating candy!”

I stepped back and made sure he saw i was only looking at the titles. I had enough to buy a Hot Stuff or a Richie Rich or a Casper, or Wendy or Little Dot…

That’s when i saw the potatoes.
Bags of potatoes all stacked on top of each other.
I was supposed to buy potatoes.

“You gonna buy one of them comics, or not?”

He startled me, and the terrible realisation of what was waiting for me at home hit all at once, and i started peeing in my pants. Literally. I was mortified and i couldn’t stop it and the cashier was glowering at me and i tried to make it outside, but i only got as far as the mat in front of the door, where i stood, frozen, and emptied my bladder.

I don’t know if he knew. I don’t remember leaving the store.

I was walking home and the cold air froze the wet legs of my pants and made them stiff and chafe against my skin. I remember my friend coming to take my hand and walk me home. She said it was okay, she was brave and she’d talk to Mom and explain about how there were no potatoes and so we bought her a Sweet Marie instead. Her favourite.
I watched her lie to my Mom for me, and hold out the candy.

I watched my Mom’s face turn scary, so i quickly looked away and down and saw she was still wearing her fancy winter boots she used for work. They had pointy-toes.
I watched her kick my friend in the crotch with those pointy-toed boots.
I saw her kick my friend so hard that she stumbled back against the wall.
I didn’t see what happened to the chocolate.
I know i didn’t see any supper that night, but i could smell it – wafting up the stairs from the kitchen. Sneaking under the door to fill my nose as the chocolate had such a short time before.

Maybe tomorrow after school my friend would come again and help me look for some more crackers.